Posts Tagged ‘Shabbos’
I think I’m finally beginning to understand.
For a few years now we have been hearing about “Half Shabbos,” a phenomenon in which our youth engage in forbidden technology-related activities on Shabbos, such as texting and Internet surfing. Various reasons have been offered by educators and other pundits to explain the phenomenon and a number of suggestions have been made about how best to address it. (I, too, wrote on this topic, including an op-ed in these pages in June 2011 titled “From Half to Full.”)
I wrote about the subject with a certain uneasiness; something kept gnawing at me, telling me I did not really understand the dilemma about which I claimed expertise. While I felt confident that my logic was sound and my strategies were useful, I still could not really place myself in young people’s shoes and comprehend what drove them to engage in such activity.
I was no digital native (when I was young we still had corner phone booths) and never had experienced technology from that vantage point. I may have stayed in bed up late at night listening to the radio, but I never had the regular experience of communicating with classmates or others at 2 a.m.
But all of that changed for me during my recent professional transition to executive and educational coaching and consulting. Sure, as head of school (my previous post) I had to be an active user of e-mail, SMS and other communication portals. My phone was positioned reliably on my hip and would be taken out countless times daily as I engaged with various constituents. Still, I was largely content to put my smartphone away for Shabbos, if only because it gave me a day of respite from the 24/6 nature of school leadership. (Technically, it was 24/7 if you count Kiddush at shul and other communal functions, but at least there I could respond in real time to a real person, not an avatar.)
As I moved into my new line of work I began to use social media in a way I never had previously. I had a largely unused Facebook account and was not “on” LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+. Nor had I ever uploaded a video to YouTube. Now, I have accounts with each of the aforementioned and use them often as a means of sharing content, developing my brand and engaging with present and potential clients.
Part of the reason for this is, as noted above, to get my name “out there” and develop credibility. However, I feel that much of this urge to post regularly emerges from the “when in Rome” mentality that affects so many of us. If every “thought leader” out there is posting to his or her Twitter account umpteen times daily, what would it say about me if mine was largely inactive? How would it look if I did not continually have relevant, fresh content to share?
Following this recent experience, I feel I now better understand our children’s struggles. For many of them, technology is not just another activity that is forbidden on Shabbos, such as writing, cooking and the like. It is a way of life, a part of their existence so deep and entrenched that it is extremely difficult to abstain from for even one day a week.
The dependency is so strong that if there aren’t strict rules in place as there are in many schools (where phones are banned entirely or must be checked in to the office at the beginning of the day and kept there until dismissal), our children will invariably succumb to the pull of their technology, especially if their friends are “on.” After all, nobody wants to come across as less socially adept or relevant, even for a brief period. This is particularly true for teenagers.
A change in the Tel Aviv law that would allow stores to open on the Sabbath “will not disturb anyone,” Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai stated in an open and written reply to Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, former Chief Rabbi of Israel.
The rabbi said that the proposed permission for stores to open on the day of rest would desecrate the sanctity of the Sabbath.
Mayor Huldai claimed that only one percent of businesses in the city will be able to open on Sabbath and will be in areas where operation won’t bother anyone.
There are flaws in Mayor Huldai’s reasoning. He assumes that Jews in secular neighborhoods will not be disturbed by stores opening on the Sabbath.
He is dead wrong. There are no statistics, but it is safe to say that a sizeable number of “secular” Jews respect and love the sanctity of the Sabbath, even if they don’t observe it.
Moreover, the “one percent” of stores that he says would open on Shabbat, if allowed, is only the beginning. Competitors will be forced to follow suit.
Pro-secular activists always argue that preventing stores from opening on the Sabbath is “religious coercion,” a phrase that always brings out the catcalls for “freedom” from religious influence on the law.
There are laws that prevent business in certain neighborhoods form operating in the middle of the night, but “social coercion” is legitimate.
There are laws that prevent businesses, and residents, from making too much noise, but “environmental coercion” is permissible.
Any law restricts the freedom of some people, and that is allowed, but the secular fundamentalists cannot tolerate the thought of Judaism being an influence on laws in a Jewish state, for the simple reason they do not wan’t a Jewish state.
Hay want a state where Jews can live and practice their religion as they wish, son ,long as the their prayers in synagogues do not disturb the neighbors and so long as not too many people clog the sidewalk when walking back and forth to synagogue on the Sabbath, and so long as the Orthodox Jews don’t dare take affront at parades of homosexuals.
The anti-Orthodox activists don’t admit that they are practicing secular coercion.
Chaos – that is how the world is described at its inception in the book of Beraishis (Genesis). Confusion. A lack of clarity and boundaries. Or, as I teach my kindergartners, “a mishmash”.
That has been my life recently, as I have grappled with the myriad of details that accompany moving from one home to another. There is an expression, “Go into chinuch (Jewish education) and see the world.” Our family has not had to crisscross the map too many times (we’ve lived in three out-of-town communities), yet somehow we’ve lived in nearly ten different homes in three decades. And for me, well, this has posed a great challenge. The first is remembering our phone number. I remember standing in a store and being asked what my telephone number was. Meanwhile I was trying desperately to remember what my new area code was. Once, when I was faced with a third move in five years, I felt it was too much to have to meet new people once more. One wonderful woman reminded me that as a result of the moves, I had been given the opportunity to meet a great variety of people, and deepen my ahavas Yisrael (love of fellow Jews).
The challenge of moving is to do it without losing all of one’s possessions, and one’s mind. Not long ago, I brought over a plate of cake to welcome a new family to our community. Though it had been but a few days, I will never forget how the house looked. All the curtains were hung and the kitchen totally organized. There was not a box in sight. Floating flowers were in a giant vase on the dining room table. I stepped out, bewildered at the site, knowing that this newly-moved into home was much more orderly then my own.
One of my daughters used to complain when she was young about her lack of talent. She believed that each sibling had something special, whether being artistic, athletic, musical, or even adorable. “But you’re so organized!” I said. She sighed. “That is not a talent”. “Honey,” I answered, “when you get older you’ll realize that it is the best talent of all!” And now she does, as she is able to keep her family and possessions organized while living in a small Israeli apartment. She works outside of her home, but never loses papers or searches for socks, because of her ability to stay organized.
My husband and I asked daas Torah (Torah advice from a scholar) about which neighborhood in our current city we should move to. Should we live where most of the shomer Shabbos people (Sabbath observers) lived, next to one shul or to the neighborhood with only a handful of families, next to the other shul?
There was not a kosher mechitza in the shul with the larger group of people, we told the rav, but my husband intends to daven in the other shul no matter where we live. “No,” the rav told us, “You cannot live near a shul without a kosher mechitza.”
So we moved far away from the shomer Shabbos population, until the day the mechitza was finally made kosher. Our kids were thrilled. Now they could live within the main community, and no longer have to walk a ½ hour each week to see their friends. Those Shabbos afternoons had been hard on us too, as we wouldn’t see the kids until we picked them up after Shabbos.
My husband agreed that we should move closer to the other neighborhood, but still felt obligated to help the minyan in the smaller shul. So, we moved closer, but not to the heart of the community; we stayed on the outskirts, but our kids were able to walk to their friends.
Unfortunately, it was time to move once again. This time we were desperate to find a suitable house, and grabbed the first one we saw. We were relieved there was the right amount of bedrooms and lots of storage space. However, once more we were a long distance away from any shomer Shabbos families. Once more our children would leave the house Shabbos afternoon and not to return till after Havdalah.
If you ask ten people what the main focus of Chanukah is, nine would probably answer, “lighting the menorah.” While that is certainly an integral part of the chag, the Gemara (Shabbos 21b) tells us, “The next year they established these days as a Yom Tov, l’hodos u’lihalel – to thank and praise.” What an eye opener! There is more to Chanukah than lighting the menyorah, playing dreidel and eating latkes? Yes! These are days established primarily to thank and praise Hashem!
The connection between Chanukah and our series on Shabbos is now clear. Thanking and giving praise to Hashem is a main theme of Shabbos as well. As we have mentioned previously, on Shabbos morning we add a pasuk to the bracha of yotzer ohr: “V’yom hashev’ee mishabeach v’omer mizmor shir l’yom haShabbos, tov lehodos l’Hashem – And the seventh day praises and says: ‘let us sing a song about the day of Shabbos – It is good to praise Hashem!’” Let us understand why giving thanks is an integral part of both Chanukah and Shabbos and how we can fulfill this obligation with joy.
The Darkest Exile
The Torah relates (Bereshis 1:2) that in the beginning of creation “v’choshech al penei tehom – there was darkness on the face of the depths.” The Midrash says that the “darkness” refers to the Greek exile. Why was this exile considered darker than any of the other exiles?
We explained in our first Shabbos article (Revealing Hashem’s Presence, 11-2) that Hashem has placed a darkness in this world in order to hide His existence. However, with a little bit of effort, we can find the Creator by examining the many different wonders of His world. Why is it then that so many people deny His existence? The number one reason is that they allow themselves to be influenced by science, which does not see past a superficial cause-and-effect system. They fail to realize that Hashem is the true cause of all these phenomena. The founders of this belief were none other then the Greeks. Unfortunately, at that time, most of the Jewish nation got caught up in Greek culture and this mistaken outlook did not leave room in their lives for Hashem or Torah, which reveals His Will. By extinguishing the light of Torah, which shows us how to navigate this world, they left themselves “in the dark.” Thus, the precise description of the Greek exile is “darkness.”
The small handful of Chashmonaim knew that a life without Torah was worthless, and they fought against the powerful Greek Empire. Hashem performed miracles for them, and they won battle after battle. Finally they liberated the Bais HaMikdash and purified it. When they discovered enough non-defiled oil for one day of lighting, Hashem performed another miracle and the oil burned for eight days. The darkness in which the Greeks had placed us was now removed and we “saw the light.” Once again we acknowledged Hashem’s dominion over the world and rededicated ourselves to His Torah.
However, this raises a difficult question. What was the need for the miracle of the oil? Couldn’t Hashem have hidden enough oil for eight days in the same way He hid a single flask?
Oil and Wars
Rav Chaim Friedlander zt”l, Mashgiach of the Ponovezh Yeshiva, answers that the miracles of the war would not have been enough to motivate Bnei Yisrael to do teshuvah. There would always be those who believed we won because of our guerrilla tactics and the fact that we knew the terrain better, etc. Therefore, Hashem performed the miracle of the oil – an open miracle that could not be denied. Only then would everyone be compelled to realize that Hashem is the One Who orchestrated all of the wondrous events that led to their victory. In other words, the clear miracles open our eyes so that we can see the non-obvious ones.
My father, Rav Ephraim Niehaus, pointed out that this lesson was also learnt in our time – the hard way. Initially, most people admitted that the Six Day War was won through open miracles, but soon afterwards, many began to pat themselves on the back. The victory was because of our preemptive strike, our superior weaponry and strategy, and so forth. Hashem, therefore, taught us a painful lesson a few years later with the Yom Kippur War. Many warnings were ignored and we were taken totally by surprise; as a result there were many casualties. It then became clear, to those willing to see, that the victory in the first war was only because of Hashem.
For Whom The Bell Tolls
‘Royal Children May Go Out With Bells’
Our mishnah states that princes may go out on Shabbos with ornamental bells on their clothing. Since nobility often wear such bells, the Sages were not concerned that princes would remove them to show their friends and then accidentally carry them in the street.
The Gemara elsewhere states that the Sages prohibited playing musical instruments on Shabbos lest one mistakenly fix them when they break. The Rema (Orach Chayim 338:1) rules that included in this prohibition, referred to as hashma’as kol, is the use of any device which is designed to make noise, such as a door knocker.
Noise, Melody, Or Ornament
The Shiltei Gibborim (to the Rif on 30b, also cited by Rema, O.C. 301:23) comments that a person may not wear bells on his clothing unless the clappers are removed because bells are designed to make noise. The Magen Avraham (O.C. 301:35) distinguishes between children and adults. He asserts that the Shiltei Gibborim only requires the removal of clappers from bells on children’s clothing because children shake bells to produce a melodious sound. Adults, however, who are not interested in the sound of bells and only wear them for ornamental purposes, are permitted to wear them with their clappers.
Eliyahu Rabba (O.C. ad loc. and cited by Biur Halacha ad loc.) takes issue with the Magen Avraham’s leniency, and asserts that regardless of intent, one may not produce sounds with a bell because it is an instrument that is designed to make a melodious sound.
The Taz (O.C. 338:1, Y.D. 282:2) maintains that bells attached to a paroches or crown of a sefer Torah must have their clappers removed since the intent of those bells is to produce noise to signal to the congregation to rise when the Aron Hakodesh is opened and when the sefer Torah is carried.
The Magen Avraham (ad loc. sk5), however, claims there is no need to remove the clappers since these bells are not made with the intent to emit a melodious sound, and the individual who opens the Aron Hakodesh does not have any intention to shake the bells and make noise.
The Shach (Y.D. 282 sk4, citing Rabbenu Manoach found in the Beis Yosef’s commentary to the Tur, Y.D. ad loc. s.v. “e’kasav”) also permits carrying a sefer Torah with bells and clappers on Shabbos, but on different grounds. He states that the rabbinic issur against making music was lifted for mitzvah purposes. The bells on a sefer Torah serve an important function, that is, to signal to all that the sefer Torah is passing by and that all should rise in its honor. Rabbenu Manoach derives this from R. Yosef (Kiddushin 31b) who, when he heard the footsteps of his mother, would say “Let me rise before the Shechina.”
The Mishnah Berurah (O.C. 338:6) rules that one should conduct himself in accordance with the Taz and remove the clappers from the bells of sifrei Torah before Shabbos or stuff the bells with cotton. However, if for some reason this is not possible, or one forgot to do so, the Mishnah Berurah rules that we may rely on the lenient view.
Let Us See What People Do
The Shulchan Aruch Harav (O.C. 338:1) and Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. sk3) maintain there is no problem and no need to act stringently. To the contrary, they say. An important purpose is served by these bells – that is, they signal to the members of the congregation that a sefer Torah is being carried. They therefore know to stand up and show honor to it. The Aruch Hashulchan states that leaving the clappers in the bells is the common custom throughout the world.
Prayers For Soldiers
Anyone who would like to be part of the war effort in Israel can call 011972-2-581-1911 (Jerusalem) and receive the name of an Israeli soldier to daven for personally.
May Hashem answer all our prayers for the good.
The Incomparable Rav Kotler
Marvin Schick is always a great read and he didn’t disappoint with his glowing account of Rav Aharon Kotler, zt”l (“The Legacy of Rav Aharon Kotler,” Front Page Essay, Nov.16).
Dr. Schick paints a picture of his greatness as only an intimate of Rav Aharon could and of the central role he played in the development of today’s Torah world. In particular, Lakewood has gone from being just a school to an overriding concept and state of mind that continues to impact the entire panorama of Torah education.
Despite the challenges posed by the Conservative and Reform movements, I have always thought there was a certain inexorability to the growth of Torah in America after the Holocaust as an expression of God’s will. Rav Aharon’s great talent and vision were used by Hashem to bring that about.
Chilling Out About Obama (I)
Ezra Friedlander’s point (“We Need to Chill Out About Obama,” op-ed, Nov. 16) really needed to be made. I have never seen so much twisting of fact and intellectual acrobatics concerning a president of the United States as are continuously directed at President Obama. Can it be that alone of all of our chief executives he is the only one who never gets anything right? Or that he sits up at night thinking of ways to do in Israel and the Jewish people?
How is it that even when Mr. Obama follows what other presidents have done with regard to Israel, he gets savaged for it while the originators of those policies – such as Ronald Reagan and the second President Bush – are fondly remembered by the Orthodox community?
Chilling Out About Obama (II)
I have often been embarrassed by the vitriol with which so may members of our community speak about President Obama, and I hope Ezra Friedlander’s op-ed last week will serve to demonstrate to those over-the-top critics that Obama is not all that different from other presidents.
I have great problems with Obamacare, for example, but why was Obama treated so harshly over it by people who gave Mitt Romney a pass over his enactment of virtually the same thing in Massachusetts? And as Mr. Friedlander ably illustrated, the views and policies regarding Israel for which Obama is vilified are not at all different from those of prior presidents.
Chilling Out About Obama (III)
I wonder what planet Ezra Friedlander lives on. Barack Obama said early on in his first term that he was committed to recasting the U.S. relationship with Israel and reaching out to Muslims. What other president came up with that statement? Does that mean nothing?
What other president sandbagged an Israeli prime minister just before meeting with him on an issue as important as the basis for the future borders of Israel? True, no president has moved the U.S embassy to Jerusalem, but for Mr. Friedlander’s information, The Jewish Press has pointed out more than once in its editorials that Obama is the only president who has refused to include an affirmative sentence in his waiver statement committing himself to such a move once circumstances permit.
About That ‘Restraint’…
The United States, Great Britain, and Russia all request Israeli “restraint.”
I have a simple question for each:
If there were a MexiHamas firing missiles into the United States, would our reaction be restraint?
If there were a ScotchiHamas firing missiles into London, would England restrain itself?
If the Chechens were firing rockets into the Kremlin, would Putin counsel restraint?
The answers are all self-evident.
William K. Langfan
Palm Beach, FL
JNF Can Learn From The Church
Russell Robinson, CEO of the Jewish National Fund, said in his Nov. 16 interview with The Jewish Press that he has no problem with the organization’s policy of only leasing land to Jews, stating: “I have an organization called the Jewish National Fund. If I had an organization called the Catholic Church, it would be different. I think the Catholic Church should be giving services for people who are Catholic.”